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How to Change the World:

The Underestimated Power of the Home

In an article for The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, scholars Ben Walker and Dan Caprar introduce the notion of a performance-based identity. Their basic premise is that the world we live in obsesses with performance so much, that it has become the individual’s foundation for self-identification. We are how we perform. Our performance is our identity—it is the way we see ourselves, the way we see others, and it is also the way that others see us.


In his 1904 volume, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, German sociologist and economist Max Weber contended that the rise of modern capitalism could best be explained by the work ethic of the Protestants—specifically, the Calvinists. Based on their religious convictions, work was a calling from God, driving them to view it in a positive light instead of a negative one. Thus, they lived a life of industry: creating enterprises, living frugally, and investing their excess into the economy. Through this, Weber argued, the birth of capitalism was successfully fueled. His famous work was controversial on various points but has been widely used in social science discussions.


However, a downfall of Calvinist theology and the Protestant Ethic was the motivation behind it. They worked hard and lived the way they did as a source of spiritual security, not just financial stability. In other words, they did it to assure themselves of their predestination (the idea that, as God’s “elect,” they were saved and could not be lost).


The point is this: from a long time ago until now, Christians and secularists have had a drive to perform. And it seems as though, the older our world gets, the stronger the drive becomes. At least in part, this is the reason for why knowledge is increasing. Better computers, better phones, better cars, better planes have all been created to make us better workers, better students, better communities, better governments, and better nations. We have become accustomed to think that the better we perform, the better the world will be.


To some degree, we can point at invention and development as exhibits to the validity of this point. Advances in medicine, innovations that we cannot live without, and even the development of laws may all find their source in the performance of hard work. But at what expense? Has society lost its identity, and are we and those we love in danger of being defined by our performance? Is the other road that ignores performance a better option? How can we make sense of this dissonant reality?


In the light of these questions, consider the opening statement of The Adventist Home: “Society is composed of families, and is what the heads of families make it. Out of the heart are ‘the issues of life’; and the heart of the community, of the church, and of the nation is the household. The well-being of society, the success of the church, the prosperity of the nation, depend upon home influences.”


Cognitively, this statement provides no watershed insights to most of us. Of course we know that the home life is the key to healthy communities! However, unpacking Ellen White’s words reveals perspectives that are as radical as they are rational.

First, it is a deadly mistake to identify society as anything other than families. Secondly, the identity of your family is determined by you, the head. Thirdly, as vital as the heart is to the body, so is the family to the community, to the church, and to the nation. In other words, you can have functioning social systems, holy doctrine, and stable streams of wealth; but if the heart does not pump properly, it is only a matter of time before everything decays.


Ellen White’s concept is radical because she says that there is only one way to fix the world’s problems and that way is not through better neighborhood watch programs, better churches, or even politics; the one way to make the world a better place is by making your home a better place. As radical as her concept is, it makes complete sense. “The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.” The most basic of all social groups, the local home of a family will have an inevitable global impact. When its members attend school, church, and interact with society, they will initiate a wave of perpetual influence that will grow larger waves of stronger influence that will span the entire globe with pandemic effects.


Instead of trying to change the world in some big way, how about changing the home in small ways? Instead of finding our value and identity in our performance at work, how about investing similar time and energy in developing our children with Christlike identities?


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Israel Ramos is the director and coordinator of Public Campus Ministry in the Michigan

Conference and Lake Union, respectively. He is a member of the University Seventh-day Adventist Church in East Lansing, home of Michigan State University, where he serves as Family Ministries Director and Youth Sabbath School Teacher with his wife Judy at their local church.


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Walker, B. W., & Caprar, D. V. (2020). When performance gets personal: Towards a theory of performance-based

identity. Human Relations, 73(8), 1077–1105.

Weber, M. (2012). The Protestant Ethic & The Spirit of Capitalism: New Introduction and Translation by Stephen

Kalberg. Routledge.

White, E. G. (1861). The Adventist Home (p. 15). Review and Herald Publishing Association.

White, E. G. (1909). The Ministry of Healing (p. 470). Pacific Press.


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